Figuring you’ve read enough predictable New Year’s predictions to make you gag and that you’re tired of being pandered to about how to make your resolutions stick, I wanted to offer a different approach to help us maximize sales performance in 2016.
Skipping the pleasantries and softening statements and fully expecting to labeled as politically insensitive/incorrect, here are the commitments I’m asking executives, sales leaders, and salespeople to make heading into the new year:
Executives and Sales Leaders:
- Commit to providing crystal clear direction to your sales team. Don’t abdicate your responsibility to point the team toward strategic target markets/accounts. Provide help and input to ensure your sales fighters are attacking the right target prospects/customers.
- Free the sales managers so they can actually lead the sales team instead of burying them with non-sales leadership, non-revenue-driving tasks, and dragging them into corporate meetings and nonsense. If you don’t think this is an issue, I challenge you to calculate the amount to time the sales manager spends on high-value, high-payoff sales leadership activities (meeting w/ individual salespeople, leading team meetings, working w/ salespeople in the field, seeing customers) versus the amount to time playing desk jockey, administrator, exec. committee member and good corporate citizen.
- Stop pretending that “salespeople” who’ve spent their entire careers in account maintenance/management/service roles are somehow magically going to turn into sales killers who become proficient at hunting for new business. Do the hard work to further define the sales roles in your organization. Commit to setting your few true hunters free to hunt. Unburden them from day to day management of the business so they can find you more new customers, and let the people on your team wired like zookeepers do what they do best – serve, nurture, feed, clean and protect customers entrusted to their care!
- Commit to a formal, scheduled, results and pipeline-focused 1:1 meeting with each salesperson every month. This can be done in-person or via phone or web-meeting. It’s invaluable and this one practice is a transformational game-changer. Don’t tell me you don’t have time; that’s a lie. Make the time. I’d argue that this is your job, and these meetings can take as little as 15 minutes per rep. Chapter 20 in Sales Management. Simplified. offers a simple, powerful blueprint how to maximize the effectiveness of these meetings and ramp up accountability and visibility without coming across as a micromanager.
- How’s this for a novel and contrarian commitment: Stop attempting to lead the sales team via email. Just. Stop. It. Your ability to send a high volume of sharply worded emails does not equate to leading anybody anywhere. In fact, the sad truth is that the way most managers use email diminishes their leadership effectiveness and how they’re perceived.
- Commit to coaching up or coaching out your under-performers quickly. Just to be clear, that’s actually two commitments. Part one is coaching (translation: helping, investing in, guiding, spending time with…) your people. I’m seeing so little coaching that it’s mind-boggling. And part two is making the decision and acting on it once it’s clear the salesperson cannot or will not perform at the level you require. Nothing good happens from keeping around a long-term under-performer. In fact, a lot of bad things happen, the most dangerous of which is the damage to your high-performance sales culture.
- Speaking of sales culture, commit to creating the type of healthy, pro-sales culture that not only engages the hearts of salespeople and drives sales increases, but also ensures your company attracts and retains top talent. If you’re not sure what that type of culture looks and feels like, Chapter 19 in Sales Management. Simplified. is dedicated to describing the healthiest sales cultures I’ve seen. This old blog post provides a good brief description, and here are a few challenge questions for you: Is your sales culture helping or hurting your sales team’s effectiveness? Is the sales team respected and appreciated or belittled by the rest of the company? Are sales victories celebrated, or are your salespeople more likely to face criticism, complaints, and arbitrary commission deductions that sap their energy and disengage their hearts?
- Commit to taking full responsibility for the results you produce. Instead of looking for excuses, playing the victim, and pointing the finger at everyone (your company, your parents, Congress, Obama, the customer, your competitor, your manager) except yourself, own it!
- Commit to improving and taking ownership of your personal and professional development. Find a handful of sales authors/bloggers you like and commit to reading their content. Sign up for webinars (like the Virtual Sales Kickoff described below) and programs that will help sharpen your sword. Befriend a top producer and discover what they’re doing to win. If you are already a top producer, start a peer or mastermind group with other top producers – especially if they’re outside your company. Share best practices. Set goals with each other. Get input on tough deals. Hold each other accountable.
- Commit to a finite, strategic, workable list of target accounts you are going to pursue. This is step one in my New Sales Driver framework for a reason. Do the grunt work on the front end. Finish the research and refine the list so you can focus on selling. And if you manage existing customer relationships, segment your accounts and decide going into the year which ones deserve more of your attention because they represent the biggest opportunity to drive new revenue.
- Commit to using all means necessary to secure discovery meetings with target prospects. Yes, use social selling. Yes to emails. Yes to asking for referrals. Yes to associations, trade shows, networking events. Yes to content marketing and inbound. Yes to “pop-in” cold calls if appropriate in your industry. And most importantly, yes to picking up the telephone, interrupting a prospect’s day, sharing a tidbit of value about how you help others who are similar, and asking them to visit with you (three times if necessary).
- Commit to changing your attitude and approach so customers upgrade how they perceive you. Too many salespeople are coming across as nothing more than “vendors” or suppliers, instead of value-creators, problem-solvers and trusted advisors. If you’re tired of being treated as nothing more than a vendor and you’ve had it with buyers trying to commoditize your offering, please take seven minutes to grab and read my free new eBook.
- Commit to sharpening your “sales story.” Your story is your most important sales weapon. I spend as much time helping salespeople sharpen their messaging as I do on any topic. It’s that critical. Have you done the hard work to make your story as compelling, relevant, and succinct as it should be? Are you leading with the issues that you/your solution address for clients, or are you spewing meaningless statements about your company and what you do? See reasons #2 and #3 in the Seven Deadly Sales Sins ebook, and the sales story exercise in Chapter 8 in New Sales. Simplified. for help with your story.
- Commit to maximizing your selfish selling time. So simple, yet so challenging. Along with nailing down your target lists and sharpening your story, nothing will impact your sales results more than taking back control of your days and your calendar. Commit to saying “no” to others. Push back when people in your company try to put non-sales work on your desk. Stop starting your day by cleaning out your email inbox and allowing others to dictate how you spend those precious first few hours! If you are serious about selling more then get serious about spending more time selling.
Imagine what would happen to sales results if sales executives, managers and salespeople made and kept these commitments in 2016! You’d have more sales and I’d have less demand for my services 🙂
Virtual Sales Kickoff 2016: Join five of my favorite sales gurus and me for the Virtual Sales Kickoff. All you need to know is that it’s free; no one is selling anything, and there’s one goal: to provide you with ideas to supercharge your sales year. Click on the image below for more details on the speakers and how to register. Even if you can’t join us on January 20th, sign up anyway so you can view the recording that will be available after the event.